Immigration is much in the news this week thanks to the work of yet another “gang” of Senators. There’s a lot of confusion about just what that “gang” is actually proposing so I don’t really want two weigh in, but I think two things are true:
1) Conservatives need to shift on the issue of illegal immigration.
2) The biggest obstacle to immigration reform is entitlement reform.
To the first point, there really is no good reason to continue restricting immigration. Conservatives don’t (or, at least, aren’t supposed to) believe in economics as a zero-sum game. We believe that wealth creation is unlimited, and as such we should welcome as many immigrants who want to come here. We should still support screening for issues like terrorism and disease, but beyond that our borders should be open.
The term “open borders” should stop being a verbotten term for conservatives. We shouldn’t want unnecessary restrictions on the movement of labor any more than we want unnecessary restrictions on the movement of goods and services.
But that brings me to the second point. The real hold up on immigration reform is entitlement reform. The last thing we want is to throw open our borders while our lavish-and-growing entitlement state serves as flypaper for every layabout in the international community who wants to come here for a free ride. We cannot open our borders while simultaneously supporting an expansive entitlement system.
There is an opportunity here for killing multiple birds with one stone. Major entitlement reform is not only needed because of our deficit-addled budget, but because it would clear the way for immigration reform of the sort that would help make our country stronger and more prosperous.
Unfortunately, this sort of comprehensive reform isn’t likely to make anyone happy. Our friends on the left aren’t about to give in on entitlement reform, and I fear that anti-immigration attitudes on the right will kill off immigration reform. But there is a path forward here, and perhaps leaders like Senator Marco Rubio can navigate it.
In related news, here’s Senator Rubio talking immigration reform with Rush Limbaugh: